A New Experiment

Yikes.  Slow day.  I blame it partially on a meeting I had this morning in which I had to wear a tie and listen to a guy talk about servers and stuff until I was ready to certify it as an acceptable substitute for Ambien.

I’ve been reading a few interesting books lately, a fairly dense history of the failed attempts to drain the Dismal Swamp along the VA-NC border in the late 18th century, and a far more readily readable book called Brave Men, Gentle Heroes:  American Fathers and Sons in World War II and Vietnam. Both have their moments, but a few tidbits in each (especially the descriptions of the old Virginia planter elite in the former) triggered that little part of my brain that says “Hmph.  Southerners and Northerners just don’t always see things the same way.”

Then I thought:  “Hmph.  Most of my readers aren’t Southerners.”

I idly thought that it might be a good idea to host a brief column:  “Ask a Southerner.”

Then I thought that a slight majority of you appear to be female as well, so what the hell, I thought I’d host “Ask a White Male Southerner.”

I’ve already talked at some length about some of the promise and problems of my home in Virginia.  So if you’ve read that, you have a bit of an idea of my slant on the whole thing.  I’m a pretty open-minded guy, and as I grow older I think I’ve tended to become both more open-minded and more politically liberal.  So my take on things will have a bit of a left-leaning slant.  But at bottom I’m still a white Southern boy, so that colors my perspective as well.

I think this could be an interesting exercise, and I look forward to see what comes out of it.

So…  Ask me a question that you’d like to have a white male Southerner answer, and I’ll give you as honest an answer as I can – even if it’s painful for one or both of us, because frankly I think the painful answers can be most important.

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7 Responses

  1. That’ll be great. I look forward to the questions. Sadly, I only had one and that was answered years ago.

    As stated, my father’s family was from NC. I visited once as a child. Lightning hitting a tree and leaving a bolt mark was memorable. But so were things like drinking a glass of buttermilk every monring and shucking peas every night (I can’t walk past buttermilk but I like peas. Although, to this day, I won’t open a stick of gum).

    But there was one thing only a Southerner could answer. But I held on to it for many years due to the fact that, although I had many good friends from down there, it had to be a very special one to ask.

    I can’t tell you how good I felt when he answered it so offhandedly.

    “No, it’s just a Southern thing.”

    The thing that had vexed me these many years began one morning when I stepped out of the bathroom in my grandmother’s room. It was a picture. It wasn’t like any other picture an eight year old city boy had ever seen.

    The guy didn’t look good. Actually, he looked a long ways past good. He looked dead. Not only that, he wasn’t looking good for the last time because he was in a coffin.

    “No, it’s just a Southern thing.” Mo’s words are still very comforting.

    For years I’d wonder if one day this family trait would rear it’s ugly head and I’d toss my day job and roam the country as some phantasmagoric photographer. Hiking dale to dell hawking my ethereal services.

    It also made more sense of the time they visited North and took my picture around, in front of, and on top of my father’s grave and tombstone.

    I didn’t say any more comforting, but I now could wrap my tiny head around it.

    Good luck with the series! I’m looking forward to it.

    Both of those things were very common in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. I know the “pictures with the tombstone” thing survived longer in some parts of the South, but I wasn’t aware that mortuary photography was a bigger deal or survived longer in the South. While on an intellectual level I know it was a nationwide phenomenon, whenever I think of it I first think of the North – probably because of the freaky and interesting 70’s book Wisconsin Death Trip.

  2. uh oh. we have a picture of our grampa in his casket, taken in 2001, in wisconsin. it creeps me out and i have NO CLUE why it was taken. but i will forevermore blame it on the south. 😉

    i am still trying to think of a question to ask you.

    See, there ya go, it’s them crazy morbid Wisconsin people!

  3. Yeah…I am currently a resident in the state (actually the Commonwealth) you left.

    Why no real city here?

    The biggest city is actually a County and the actual capital “city” isn’t big enough to even support an Arena Football team.

    Heheh, yeah, I’m familiar. And hey, there are those “cities” who aren’t a part of counties! Or better yet, what about Princess Anne, the county that was officially disbanded? I think they just said “We give up, we’ll just call it all Norfolk.”

    Do you find yourself, even when not in the south, drawn to other southerners?

    I always seem to bond with people from my area of origin (Michigan, Ohio and Indiana)?

    Sometimes, but in general I haven’t had enough experience to really say. I’m back in the South now so I’m surrounded by ’em; when I lived in the Midwest there really weren’t any southerners nearby to hang out with – at least that I knew of.

    When I was in grad school I tended to hang out with the southern guys – but, again, they were a majority. I DID hang out with the two who were probably the “most southern” of the bunch.

  4. What an interesting idea! I don’t have a question yet, but being Canadian I guess I would qualify as “northerner”? Or perhaps a whole other beast, haha….anyway look forward to this 😉

    I think the average Southerner defines a Northerner or “Damn Yankee” as a resident of the states that did not secede in ’61 and that formed the bulk of the Union Army during the Civil War. (Not including the border states of Kentucky and Missouri, but usually including Maryland and Delaware.) I think that Canadians are generally viewed as something different entirely.

    To paraphrase Robert Duvall’s character in that dumbass racing movie Days of Thunder, “You’re not a Yankee. You’re not really Southern. You’re not really anything.” (He was talking about Californians – also not really on the North/South scale, but more off to the side.) 😀

  5. Whoops, I deleted a comment from Heather Jo: yes, there are tons of tobacco shops in the South in general. I think a lot bigger percentage of the population of Southerners smoke.

    I don’t like it, because I think smoking is stupid, and Southerners already have enough of a stupid stereotype without that!

  6. When I worked in the customer service department at Camping World (RV accessories), my favorite callers were southern men because of the politeness and accent. I dreaded the calls from New Jersey men because of the un-politeness and accent. The women from the north and south seemed to fall in the middle of the extremes. What is your take on the politeness of southerners…men in particular?

    This is an excellent question. I’ll think it over and tackle it a little later.

  7. […] I’ve got to do some more thinking on Allison’s question for Ask A White Male Southerner.  More later, I hope! […]

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